What To Feed Chickens To Have Deep Yellow Egg Yolks

Many people believe that eggs with dark yellow or sunset orange yolks taste richer and are healthier for you. While there isn’t much scientific research available that supports this theory, most of us can’t deny the fact that “fresh is best” when it comes to our eggs. Do you know what it takes to get those darker yolks?

2 Farm Eggs on Left and store-bought egg on right

The color of a hen’s yolk is directly related to her diet. Carotenoids are the compounds that are responsible for the yellow or orange color of the egg’s yolk. Carotenoids can be found in a wide variety of green and orange fruits, vegetables, and even some flowers. Hens that are allowed to graze green pastures every day will naturally eat more grass and other green plant material. But, the egg yolk color can also be manipulated in caged, commercial hens by feeding them a commercial diet that has more carotenoid sources. It’s not legal to add artificial colors to a hen’s diet, but adding a supplement like dried calendula or marigold flowers is one way that the additional carotenoids can get into a caged hen’s diet to make those deeply colored yolks without the need for acres of grazing fields.

Good Treats

Now that you know that all it takes is a little forethought into what a hen eats to make darker yolks, here’s a list of supplemental treats to offer your backyard flock to help give a darker color to their yolks:

  1. Leafy greens: kale, spinach, leaf lettuce (not iceberg), broccoli leaves
  2. Orange vegetables: pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots
  3. Yellow or orange flowers: marigolds, buttercups, goldenrod
  4. Red fruits and vegetables: tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries, beets

Keep It Balanced

Keep in mind that your laying flock should primarily be fed a balanced layer ration. The above-mentioned items should only be given as treats and not a hen’s sole source of nutrition since key nutritional requirements may be missing.

It’s also interesting to note that on any given day you may see a range of differently colored yolks from your flock. I’ve noticed that my less active foragers tend to have paler yolks when compared to the egg yolks of those birds who are great foragers and spend the majority of their day outside digging through the paddock for their diet. I’ve also noticed that during periods of rainy weather, the flock tends to stay in the barn more and therefore less foraging happens. I’ll then notice paler yolks for a few days following the rainy stretch unless I supplement with vegetables from the list.

Seasonal changes in the grass will also affect your hens’ yolk colors. Especially during periods when snow covers the ground, it’s hard for a hen to get much green grass (or any grass at all) to make those richly colored yolks. Supplementing your flock’s diet will help much more in the winter than in the summer.

What are your flocks’ favorite treats from the list above? Have you noticed a difference in their yolk color after eating those treats? Do you notice a seasonal difference?

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